Sunday, December 20, 2009

Make it yourself!

These days it is so easy to buy food already prepared or partially prepared.  People have strayed from the kitchen and gravitated to the deli counter, take out window, and frozen food aisle.  Frankly, I can't really think of what else to say beyond "it bums me out".  I know, I sound about 15 when I write that but it's true.  The demise of family dinner and homemade meals truly does get me down.

I was lucky enough to have a Micheal Pollan moment a few weeks ago.  A dear friend invited me to hear him speak at a breakfast at her daughter's school.  I was so excited that morning-I had butterflies in my stomach (goofy but true).  He spoke for a long while, heralding the benefits of CSAs and Farmer's Markets and the tragedy that is our industrialized food system.  He also talked about the importance of sharing with your kids the source of the food on your table and the process of cooking.  He is fantastic speaker who talks with no notes, plenty of levity, and a relatable quality that allows him to explain pretty heavy subjects in terms anyone can, and should, understand.  I love the guy. 
When the speech was over he sat down for a book signing.  I rushed upstairs, not with a Pollan book but with my own book.  I'd written him a note, thanking him for inspiring me to teach and write the way I do.  I felt like an eight year old girl meeting Hannah Montana.  I could barely hand him the book and talk at the same time, stumbling over words and turning beet red, I'm sure.  Needless to say, he was incredibly gracious, paged through the book, and said to me "Wow, this is gorgeous.  Not only will I look at this but I will cook from it too.".  I was thrilled.

As I walked in my kitchen to cook my own dinner last night, I thought of Michael Pollan and his simple philosophy of cooking your own food.  We grilled two rib eye steaks and alongside I made homemade French fries (baked very crispy in the convection oven) and my old recipe for homemade Caesar salad.  This is the meal people go out for but why?  It's so easy to make yourself, costs way less, and tastes just delicious.

Next time you think about what to do for dinner, make it yourself.  You can start with this Caesar.  Happy Cooking!!

Caesar Salad

2 small garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 anchovy fillets, mashed with a fork (or a bit of good quality anchovy paste)
1 tbs Dijon mustard
pinch each of salt and freshly ground pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1/2-3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 of a baguette, crust removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes (any bread you have will work)
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and cut into bite size pieces
additional Parmesan cheese, for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, Parmesan, anchovies, Dijon, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Add the olive oil, staring with 1/2 cup, and whisk (or use an immersion blender for a creamier dressing) until well combined, adding more oil as needed to balance out the flavors.  Season to taste with additional salt or pepper and set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the bread cubes with about 1 tbs of olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Bake until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes (I do mine in the toaster oven which works great).

When ready to serve, place the Romaine pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add half of the dressing and toss well, adding as much additional dressing as needed to lightly coat all the lettuce.  Toss in the croutons and grate some additional Parm over the top for garnish.  Enjoy right away.


Deana said...

So cool about your meeting with Michael Pollan! Love that you brought him your cookbook (he will love it too)...we have a convection oven Jod, how do you use it to get your french "fries" to get crispier? Thanks! Happy Holidays Jod! Love, D

Mmm....that's good said...

Hey Deana...I peel my potatoes and cut them into "fries". I toss them in a bowl with about 1 tbs of olive oil. Meanwhile, I heat the oven to 400 degrees with the convection setting on. While the oven is heating, I put a tbs of canola or vegetable oil on a baking sheet and heat it in the oven for about 5 minutes (the oil should shimmer but not smoke). Place the potatoes, carefully, on the heated sheet pan and spread them out in an even layer. Let them cook until well browned on the bottom, without stirring at all-about 10 minutes. Using a flat spatula, turn the potatoes over and continue cooking until browned on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Toss with some salt and enjoy. They are DELICIOUS!!!

Kerry said...

Jodi, I think it's great you gave him your cookbook! Was thinking of you last night as we sat with Kris, Todd, and the kids with a giant bowl of Dungeness crab, salad, and garlic bread. Talk about simple and delicious! And you would just love to see Taylor cracking that crab and eating it as fast as she can!

Amelia PS said...

I have butterflies in my tummy too when I meet my davorite writers. It's happened before...!
I completely agree with you. We cook and eat together every dinner, that's also how I grew up. And there are studies showing that families that eat together stay together and communication is stronger. Happy Holidays, my friend!!!

Angie said...

What a great moment, Jodi! So glad you shared your fantastic book w/ him. This looks like an adaptation of the recipe I got from your mom in college and still refer yummy! Yes, we all need to stay home more often and enjoy special meals together. It is such good quality time! We almost always go around the table and share our 'high' and 'low' for the day and it brings out great conversation.

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